How Can Sexual and Relationship Violence Be Prevented?
It’s important to remember that the only person responsible for sexual and relationship violence is the perpetrator. The victim/survivor is not responsible; it is not on the victim/survivor to have prevented what happened to them. There are things that college students (and society) can do to help reduce incidents of sexual and relationship violence. Everyone plays a part in making campus safer.
You may hear or see things on campus that contribute to rape culture. Rape culture is an environment in which sexual and relationship violence (especially against women) are normalized and prevalent. Examples of things that we see or hear that may create rape culture are “boys will be boys,” sexist jokes, sending unsolicited sexual pictures, and cat-calling. If these behaviors are allowed in the environment, it may make other behaviors seem normal and acceptable, like stalking, partner violence, or rape. You can think of rape culture as a pyramid. If we can disrupt the behaviors at the bottom of the pyramid, then we may be able to stop the behaviors at the top.
Image source: 11th Principle: Consent!
This is where you come in! If you hear or see things that aren’t appropriate and may contribute to rape culture, call them out! Here are some ways you can do that:
- Call someone out in the moment. If someone is making a sexist joke or victim-blames, you can say “Hey, that’s not cool” or “That’s not funny.” Even a simple “Yikes” can show that you don’t support what was said.
- Change the subject. Interrupt the comment or behavior by asking about an upcoming test or pointing out a cute dog on campus. Anything you can do to distract or interrupt will be helpful!
- Talk to the person afterwards. If you’re not comfortable saying something in front of other people or in the moment, you can talk to the person later. You can tell them how their comment or behavior made you feel and may have made others feel: “I thought what you said/did wasn’t very nice.” You can also tell them the comment or behavior seems out of line for them: “That doesn’t sound like something you’d usually say. What’s up?”
- Check in with other people who heard the comment or saw the behavior. They may agree with you and didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. They might have also been offended by what was said. Check in with them and make sure they’re feeling okay. You can also connect them with campus resources.
In addition to disrupting behaviors at the bottom of the pyramid, if you see situations where you think someone could be or is being harmed, you can step up and interrupt the behavior. You can intervene and be a prosocial bystander or upstander. To intervene, follow the 3 Ds:
This is directly confronting or interrupting the behavior. You could say “What are you doing?” or “Do you want me to go with you?” to stop or prevent potential harm.
Creating a distraction can interrupt the potentially harmful behavior. For example, spill your drink, talk loudly on your phone, or tell the person their car is being towed. You can also distract by cutting into a conversation or the situation: “I’m starving. Let’s get some food” or “I really need to go to the bathroom. Will you go with me?”
If you don’t feel comfortable intervening, get someone else to help! Call an RA, a bouncer, or the party host. Ask another friend to say or do something or do it together. You can also call the police.
Intervening may look different in different situations. For example, if you’re intervening with a friend, you may feel more comfortable being direct. If it’s a stranger, distracting or delegating may be the best route.
It’s important to evaluate the situation and make sure it’s safe. If you could be injured or harmed in anyway, it may be best to delegate by calling the police. It’s also important to remember that intervening may look different for different genders and races.
College students can create a culture where consent is the norm–a culture in which everyone asks for consent and respects people if they don’t give consent. Promoting positive, healthy behaviors could help to change the environment and make things safer on campus. Read more here about consent.